Asheville City Council: Highlights, from Tweets to actions

Asheville City Council held its Aug. 10 meeting. Here are a few highlights of actions taken and minute-to-minute coverage by Xpress Senior News Reporter David Forbes:

• Council discussed an initiative to address homelessness in Asheville.
• City Council approved a contract with Wackenhut Corp. for security in parking lots (5-1, Bothwell against; Manheimer absent).
• City has saved about $250,000 with energy-efficiency measures; some Council members want to use funds, such as for “green” jobs training. Council passes resolution, 5-1, to support federal PACE programs; member Bill Russell votes against.
• City staff estimate that two areas approved for annexation (Royal Pines and Cooper Hawk) will bring in about $888,383 in new city revenue a year, cost about $395,463 in services (such as fire and police protection) a year in first five years, goes down to about $297,000 after. Mayor Terry Bellamy asked to include projections for sidewalk costs. Service plan passes 5-1, with Russell against.
• Council unanimously approved selling 16 acres on Pisgah View Road to Habitat for Humanity for $450,000, although the city has invested $650,000 in the property. Habitat plans a $7.2 million development for the site.
• Council also approved a 250-home, pilot recycling project.

4:45 P.M. Heading off to Asheville City Council meeting. Follow the coverage at #avlgov

4:58 P.M. City Council Meeting begins in 2 minutes:

5:06 P.M. Mayor Terry Bellamy praises Walter Plaue, who’s donating wreath on behalf of Vets memorial board of directors

5:10 P.M. Plaue thanks Council: Vets, families “very conscious of which of their elected leaders shows up”

5:14 P.M. Resident Douglas McDowell concerned about proposed license agreement with SunCom Wiresless on city property

5:17 P.M. City Manager Gary Jackson: Rate charged SunCom is competitive; they’re taking on liability, maintenance

5:21 P.M. Council now hearing information on two applications totaling $5 million for HUD affordable housing grants

5:22 P.M. Funds would go to housing, city’s affordable housing trust fund, purchasing land for future use

5:23 P.M. Some funds might go towards improving conditions in housing projects like Hillcrest

5:24 P.M. Council passes consent agenda, including SunTrust, HUD grant applications unanimously

5:25 P.M. Jackson presents economic institute scholarship to James Lee, minority business coordinator

5:27 P.M. Jackson recognizes Mike Clark with chief fire officer designation, for professional skills

5:29 P.M. David Nash of homeless advisory committee updates Council on Homeless Initiative

5:32 P.M. A main goal of committee to target individual “chronic homeless:” those on street for year or more

5:33 P.M. Nash: Initiative has housed 20 chronic homeless, 4 have vouchers, 13 more applying

5:36 P.M. Nash: 67 people re-housed under stimulus program, prevented from becoming homeless

5:38 P.M. Nash: Jail has begun interviewing jail inmates to find which are homeless, Mission Hospitals considering similar step

5:40 P.M. Nash: Local agencies are using “unprecedented cooperation” to battle homeless problem

5:41 P.M. Council member Cecil Bothwell asks how much homelessness has increased

5:41 P.M. Initiative Coordinator Amy Sawyer: 21 programs now enter homeless data into common system

5:42 P.M. Sawyer: “a difficult question to answer” but most counts stayed stable, though more at risk of becoming homeless

5:44 P.M. Nash: Many veterans among homeless, but more coordination with VA for vouchers

5:45 P.M. Bellamy: “Seeing a difference on the streets” praising nuisance court, “more penalties for vagrant behavior”

5:47 P.M. Council considers accepting $779,020 in Clean Cities grant to purchase, upgrade natural gas station, vehicles

5:48 P.M. Council accepts grant unanimously

5:49 P.M. Council member Esther Manheimer absent

5:50 P.M. Bellamy: Move will reduce city’s carbon footprint by 4 percent

5:51 P.M. Council takes up hiring Wackenhut Corp. for park security

5:52 P.M. Parks and Recreation director Simmons: Cost is $76,000 versus $140,000 for city employees, guards won’t have weapons or arrest powers

5:54 P.M. Bothwell: Wackenhut had “ghost workers” in other cities. Simmons: department’s monitoring system should insure work done

5:55 P.M. Bothwell: How does APD feel about this? Simmons: APD involved in selecting Wackenhut

5:56 P.M. Wackenhut contract approved 5-1 Bothwell against

5:58 P.M. Sustainability coordinator Maggie Ullman notes legal battle over PACE energy saving program, asking Council to back federal legislation

6:00 P.M. Ullman: Changes in yr at fed, state level “likely to clear the path” for PACE, which funds energy improvements via property tax financing

6:01 P.M. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman: We’ve endorsed this twice at state level, disappointed have to go back again

6:03 P.M. Ullman: Current short session not time for new legislation, which is what would be needed

6:04 P.M. City attorney Bob Oast: If this federal legislation is successful, will remove impediment at state level

6:09 P.M. Newman: “Let’s get this started,” recommends similar test program at local level

6:13 P.M. Council member Jan Davis wants to see more developed idea for local program, but wants to use $250,000 stored on energy saving measures

6:21 P.M. Council member Gordon Smith: “An urgency to this” due to climate change, wants to look into options for “leveraging” $250,000

6:23 P.M. Rev. Scott Rogers of ABCCM: We’re training people in green building techniques, supports PACE move “to create jobs,” save energy

6:26 P.M. Council member Bill Russell won’t support motion “because of Freddie and Fannie,” worried about government in loaning business

6:28 P.M. Newman: “If these programs run well,” improve homeowners’ financial strength

6:32 P.M. Motion to support federal PACE legislation passes 5-1 Russell against

6:33 P.M. Council discusses plan to provide services to two areas considered for annexation, totaling just under 700 new residents

6:36 P.M. Staff: areas urban, residential, meet legal requirements for annexation

6:38 P.M. Staff: Additional police officer, waste and leaf trucks, three public works personnel required for areas

6:42 P.M. New areas will bring in about $888,383 in new city revenue a year, cost about $395,463 a year in first five years, goes down to about $297,000 after

6:44 P.M. Staff projections: net gain of $63,974 first year, over $500,000 net revenue gain per year by sixth year

6:47 P.M. Newman wants to hear ideas from areas about what services they need once in city. Oast: Sept. 13 public information session place for that

6:51 P.M. Bellamy wants money data on sidewalks for areas, staff saying getting that will delay process

6:53 P.M. Transportation Director Ken Putnam: Staff has formula to measure sidewalk need

6:54 P.M. Bellamy: if sidewalks offered, might have less opposition to annexation in areas

6:56 P.M. Public Works Director Cathy Ball: Issues include of rights of way, wants to know if Council wants to make research into that part of policy

6:58 P.M. Davis: “We need to be very, very careful of changing our annexation policy,” he doesn’t want to insert provision this late

6:59 P.M. Bellamy: “Makes sense to provide this service to future residents”

7:02 P.M. Newman wants something more general than Bellamy’s proposal, Davis agrees, says should listen to new residents about what they need

7:06 P.M. Council goes into closed session/break for next 20 mins

7:06 P.M. Service plans for both annexation targets — Coopers Hawk Drive and Royal Pines areas — pass 5-1, Russell against

7:26 P.M. And they’re back

7:27 P.M. Next up, selling city property on Pisgah View Road to Habitat for Humanity for $450,000

7:30 P.M. City has invested just under $650,000 over the years in the 16 acres, including purchase price

7:34 P.M. Staff touts $7.2 million development, 50 units of affordable housing, replenishment of housing trust fund if sale approved

7:35 P.M. Staff note eminent domain may be necessary to take 30 to 50-foot right of way from former developer, who wants $250,000 for it

7:36 P.M. Russell wonders if property was listed for private sale. Staff: It’s been listed since March 10

7:38 P.M. Newman: “This is a positive resolution” to problems with previous development in area

7:39 P.M. Bellamy: Disappointed about losing $150,000 but glad area will be developed affordably by reputable company

7:40 P.M. Sale to Habitat for Humanity passes unanimously

7:41 P.M. Update on sidewalks, grown from 132 to 165 miles in recent years

7:42 P.M. Putnam: but 108 miles of linkages between sidewalks needed

7:47 P.M. Putnam: “No more sidewalks to nowhere” focus on connections

7:47 P.M. City working on sidewalks in Beverly Hills areas, Patton Ave near Leicester Hwy, surveying for Tunnel Rd

7:51 P.M. Bothwell asks if increase in sidewalk miles due to “discovered” sidewalks or construction. Putnam: Combination of both

7:59 P.M. Bellamy wants clearer information on sidewalk process for special Aug. 31 Council meeting in Haw Creek

8:02 P.M. Smith: Looking to “get more bang for our buck” in connecting transit modes to “create most user-friendly transit system we can”

8:03 P.M. Davis excused from remainder of meeting

8:03 P.M. Bellamy: Rep. Heath Shuler’s office wants more info on resolving “goat path” issue near V.A. hospital

8:06 P.M. Council sets up Sep. 28 retreat to discuss capital improvement needs

8:10 P.M. Cathy Ball presenting 250-home pilot program for improved recycling

8:11 P.M. Program will focus on Burton Street, Park Avenue, Norwood Park areas, larger containers, try to make recycling more convenient

8:12 P.M. If it works in trial run, new recycling program will become city-wide July 1

8:14 P.M. Cost of pilot program $5,000. Ball: “hopeful that will easily be recovered thru decrease in tipping fees”

8:17 P.M. Bellamy: Like to see program include part of East Asheville

8:18 P.M. Russell: “I’m very excited about this” hopes it will improve recycling

8:19 P.M. Bothwell wants to consider every other week trash pickup if recycling increases. Russell: “my house would be very messy”

8:24 P.M. Newman proposing adding two county-appointed members to Civic Center board and making a spot on transit commission City-appointed

8:25 P.M. Changes approved 5-0

8:34 P.M. Homeless street preacher Chris Chiaromonte claims Parks and Rec banning people from parks even if found innocent on a charge

8:37 P.M. Chiaromonte says he can’t find anyone who can remove him from indefinite ban, claims whole process is cruel and unusual

8:39 P.M. After argument with Chiaromonte when trying to find out his complaint, Bellamy asks Jackson to elaborate process for appealing ban

8:40 P.M. Chiaromonte asks Council to un-ban him now, Bellamy asks him to sit down. He keeps asking, escorted out by police

8:42 P.M. Rogers elaborates on ABCCM’s efforts on homelessness: 267 homeless vets, 111 women given job training he says

8:50 P.M. Council adjourns just as the street lights come on outside

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